Xin chao. Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. The meeting is generally followed by an optional group meal out at one of Hanoi's fantastic eating spots. If you have time before the meeting, head out and discover Hanoi. It's a good idea to take a hotel business card so you can find your way back.
In the morning, take a bus transfer from Hanoi towards Lao Chai in the Sapa region. The drive may take a little while (approx. 5 hours), which makes for the perfect opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers a bit better. Press on along the winding road before taking your first glimpse of Lao Chai village, sitting comfortably in a valley with cleared hillsides and rustic farmland. Stretch your legs as you walk off the bus, then begin a trek to your homestay in Ta Van – comfy, quaint and surrounded by pristine farmland (approximately 10 km; 6 mi).
After breakfast at your homestay trek to Giang Ta Chai – home to the Red Dzao hill people. Push on through 18 kilometres of terraced farmland and bamboo scrub for excellent views of emerald valleys and rushing waterfalls as you stroll on by. Take a picnic lunch along the way, then depart by bus to Sapa. Once you arrive in Sapa, enjoy some free time to rest your legs. If you still have some energy perhaps visit the local market. This is where you can indulge in some local goods, such as dyed fabrics, hemp plants and handmade textiles. In the evening, settle into your hotel in Sapa for the night.
In the morning, embark on a long bus journey (approximately 7 hours) to the province of Ha Giang. This is a highland region of forests and terraced rice paddies, with the mountains of Heaven’s Gate (Quan Ba pass) soaring in the background. The Ha Giang province also shares a border with southern China, and is known as Vietnam's final frontier. After relaxing and getting to know your surrounds, visit the local markets and shop fronts, which are relics of a bygone era. Afterwards venture to the the local museum and explore Cuom Village, witnessing the colourful traditional dress of the local people. The evening is then free to do as you please.
Today, leave for the first of many scenic mountain drives throughout Ha Giang province. Stop to browse Minh Tao Market before wandering through the village of Nam Luong. A visit to Mrs Mai’s Responsible Tourism project will be a highlight of the day. Learn about the stories of human trafficking and how the victims/witnesses of this crime found the opportunity of a life free from exploitation here. Afterwards pass through Lung Tam textile village and the Vuong Family Palace in Sa Phin commune, before continuing to Dong Van where you'll spend the night.
After breakfast visit the local market, before setting off on a trekking loop that starts and finishes in Dong Van. The trek (approximately 4 hours in total) is surprisingly moderate and suitable for those with an average fitness level. Wind your way through the spectacular landscape, where you can expect to witness glorious views and capture some amazing pictures of lush valleys and rice paddies. The evening is then free to relax or explore more of Dong Van.
Drive past terraced rice farms on the road to Bao Lac (approximately 4 hours), a small town in the mountainous region of northern Vietnam. The area is home to the Black Lo Lo ethnic group, who are well known for their colourful attire and finesse in making bronze drums. The bronze drums hold a special place in Lo Lo customs, being used at funerals and important family events. In Lo Lo culture, only the sound of the drums can help the souls of the dead find their way to the birthplace of their ancestors. Stay overnight in Bao Lac and perhaps explore the local marketplace and learn more about this fascinating culture.
Travel on to Ba Be Lake early in the morning (approximately 4 hours). Once there, head down the river by boat on an exploration of Ba Be National Park, visiting the largest natural lake in Vietnam. Disembark for some light walks along the way, visiting the impressive waterfalls that feed the lake and observing the natural flora and fauna. Return to land in the afternoon and head to a local home where you will be sleeping tonight. The family you’re staying with will prepare lunch and the rest of the day is then free to explore. In the evening sit down for a delicious dinner with your hosts. This is a great opportunity to gain an insight into their lives and culture.
Head back to Hanoi after breakfast, which should take between four and five hours. Use your free time exploring the boulevards and colonial buildings of the city. If you have time, visit the Hanoi Military Museum or take a look inside the city's spectacular Opera House. For your final evening in Hanoi, perhaps share a final dinner with the group at KOTO cafe, a project aimed at providing vocational training to underprivileged young people.
Your Northern Vietnam Adventure comes to an end after breakfast, as there are no more activities planned for today. You're free to depart the accommodation at any time.